Lots of Love for Lady Bird
By Kevin Lewis
Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, Lady Bird, is not only one of the best films of the year, but also one of the best coming-of-age movies of all time. The film is set in suburban Sacramento at a Catholic high school in 2002, and stars Saoirse Ronan as teenager Christine McPherson who goes by the name “Lady Bird”. While Christine navigates her senior year, the audience follows her misadventures as she deals with getting into college, dating, and her relationship with her mother Marion, played by the excellent Laurie Metcalf.
Quirky films that center around teens near the end of adolescence is a cliche that has been used time and time again. Lady Bird doesn’t exactly break any barriers in that regard but the film is able to stand out from the crowd by executing every beat with a great sense of heart and humor. Stand-out performances by Ronan and Metcalf also help to separate this film from the pack as it depicts an enduring mother-daughter bond that feels as though the relationship has lasted long before the film began. Ronan is able to compel the audience with her portrayal of the pretentious teen as she lets the character breathe with sincere authenticity. There are no performances in this film that feel disingenuous. Every actor provides an aura of realism into their character.
The screenplay, also written by Gerwig, invigorates a sense of wit and humor that makes this film unique. While the plot is nothing out of the ordinary and many beats can be predicted before the opening credits, the characters created by Gerwig allow for the film to succeed beyond the glaring normalities of the lackluster story. Every action taken by Lady Bird feels truthful and honest. The film does veer off the path of presumptions as the characters make choices that are unexpected. The freshness of Gerwig’s voice prevents the screenplay from ever hitting a false note.
As an actor making the transition into directing, Gerwig also demonstrates a mature knowledge of how important visual storytelling is to making a film work. The film begins and ends with montages that are brief but allow the audience to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation of the characters and what they are going through. By the end of the film, every character has had a fully developed arc that is meaningful and heartfelt. Gerwig is also able to pace the film in such a way that the ninety minutes flies by, leaving the audience entranced by characters they have just met.
The film’s production company, A24, has been on a hot-streak this year with the best picture winner Moonlight, the locally shot film The Killing of a Sacred Deer and the highly anticipated The Disaster Artist (a film about the making of the worst film ever made). Lady Bird is the darling of their slate, and it is a sure bet that it will take home many wins come awards season. The film is a lovely tribute to both growing up and a mother-daughter bond that is simplistic but shines with stellar performances and a strong creative voice by a first time writer-director. 9.5/10
Director: Greta Gerwig
Writer: Greta Gerwig
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Lucas Hedges, Beanie Feldstein, Timothée Chalamet, Laurie Metcalf
Running Time: 1h 33m